We left the farm after a great warm up from Simon Jukes.
From there, we went straight up a steep mountain. There was a bit of moaning and sweating, and about 30 mins later, we reached the top and the fun began.
With an almost 30 kilometers descent down the switchbacks and spectacular scenery, some of us were lucky enough to be joined by a pair of wild stallions, galloping majestically alongside us, as we ourselves rode our bikes like mighty steeds!
We navigated the tricky passes and, with a quick stop to look at a bridge that didn’t span to river to Greece on the other side, we eventually arrived at our morning coffee stop, a much need boost of energy. The establishment was a fine one, with wonderful coffee and excellent facilities. It is known far and wide for boasting a pair, yes a pair, of porcelain squat toilets!
After we had made use of the facilities, we were off again on an undulating leg of the journey. I believe undulating is the Albanian word for ‘uphill’, but being troopers we toiled through a truly challenging stage and made it to a brief water stop.
Then, onwards to the final stage and the restaurant where we would get a wonderful lunch. They came out to us with the customary Albania greeting, which I find hard to pronounce, but roughly translates as “have some cheese”. After an outstanding lunch it was on to the warm springs where some took to the waters and were instantly rejuvenated.
We reached Gjirokaster and found the road to the hotel was closed and we were accorded the honour, apparently a local tradition where you carry your cases up a hill!
All funds raised will be uplifted by The Openwork Partnership by 50% to support vulnerable people through the Foundation’s grant programmes.
By Ian Galston, 2Plan
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